Timing is…

I have a rather strange and shifting amity with the concept of Time.
Always have had.

You try having writers for parents… time gets elastic. Anecdotes are spliced into the most effective Time-frame –last weekend becomes yesterday. “When I was a kid” could mean anywhere between the ages of 4 or 24. You often have to factor  in audience and intended effect before you know where you are, chronologically speaking.

And when those writers actually write for a living, you have to deal with all the extended confusions of “On-Time.”

Back in the 1980s and 90s, breaking stories were actually filed in a file –in person– instead of an email inbox and reporting local news was a viable way to feed your family and save for retirement. (Impossibly naive and apparently unsustainable with today’s technologies. But that’s beside the point.)

So, with both parents’ schedules centered on council meetings, poll-results, and the ever-looming deadline, your childish concepts of Time and On-Time are equally irrelevant. “On-Time” is also elastic. You learn quickly that 5 minutes can easily become 5 hours. “I’ll be home in time for dinner” could mean anything from “before the casserole is completely cold” to “before you leave for school in the morning.”

As a kid –and by “kid,” I specifically mean ages 5 to 11 or so, before you start worrying about keeping your own schedule for extracurriculars and movies with friends– you learn to stretch and bend and not worry too much and always bring a nice, long book along while you wait. At least, that’s what I did.

But maybe this isn’t the experience of all reporters’ kids? Maybe this is –as many of my friends and family members suggest, continually, exhaustively– a perspective of Time unique to my immediate family? Likely.

“RommelTime,” as one friend coined it in my early adolescence (a moniker still in widespread use to this day), consistently runs one hour behind any established schedule, give or take another half-hour. Always did, still does.

Tragically, about the time I grew frustrated with the consequences of RommelTime and started frantically plotting to compensate for my parents’ dependable lagtime, I realized it was already too late for me.

It’s true.  My husband will testify. And my friends. Directors. Employers. I am all grown up and completely freed from my parents’ CCD (chronic-chronological-disorder). No more planning for and pacing through an extra 45 minutes to account for their last-minute phone calls, important emails, impromptu meetings at the grocery store, and the myriad of still-unnamed deterrents to the harsher strictures of Time obeyed by an overwhelming majority of the populace (otherwise, why else would an individual tendency to the elastic seem so aberrant?). No more. I am master of my own time now.

And still, I am late.

Never a full hour on the RommelTimeStandard (or at least very rarely, and usually only with AMA, whose ShiftingTimePerspective is totally beyond even my empathetic understanding)… but 30 minutes? Sometimes. 20? Yes, often.

The good news here, is that, for me, the inherent disparity between RommelTime and RealTime has significantly decreased over the years. For everyday Time-keeping, RommelTime seems to have settled at a consistent 12-minute lag… despite my repeated best attempts to join the Timelier masses of this world.  I plan ahead. I “schedule” time for the things I know I’ll forget on my way to some Time-dependent event (gathering scripts, finding keys, eating). Most weeknights, I choose the next day’s clothes. I set my alarm clock 7 to 18 minutes ahead to “fool myself” in the morning (it really does work, every time).  Like a recovering addict, I tell myself and anyone who’s around, over and over and out loud, that “starting tomorrow” things will be different; I will be early for work.

But… well, things come up.

I said before I had a strange and shifting amity with Time. It’s true. I appreciate the need for Time. I am comforted by its presence and its role in shaping my days and years. But we don’t always understand eachother, Time and I, and there are moments when I would swear that Time just doesn’t want me to get too close. Too many times a day to count, RealTime eludes my grasp.

Today, for instance. Today I discovered that the one clock in the apartment that has not been pushed ahead (by me or the husband), the one clock I use every day to determine the time I walk out the door is 13 minutes late. 13! I won’t even tell you what this did to my psyche this morning.

The thing I want to say here is this: I will keep trying to join your world. I will do my best to be On-Time. But the physics of the situation simply dictate that I will keep you waiting, and I am sorry.

At least I come by it honestly.


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